Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Debbie!!!

One of my absolute dearest friends, Debbie, lives in Newport News,Virginia. She and her husband bought property in the mountains of east Virginia, and the two of them built the most incredible cabin there. This is a special, magical place that we refer to as Cloud 9.

A variety of critters visit Cloud 9 - deer, wild turkeys, and even bears. I suspect that Bear is a totem animal for Debbie. Friday is her birthday, and I got this crazy idea to make a pillow for her cabin, using the bear paw quilting pattern, but instead of piecing fabric, to knit squares. Here's the result...

The squares were knit on the diagonal, which surprisingly gives them a woven look. The yarn is Lamb's Pride Bulky which is 85% wool and 15% mohair, singles. I knitted 4 large brown squares, 4 small white squares, and 16 small squares that are half white and half brown. (Actually, I ran out of brown, so for a "design element", one of them is half white and half green.) I had lots of ends to sew in, and when I started to sew them together, discovered the small squares were a little too big. So.... I sewed those together with a seam, and then just butted the large square next to the resulting L to stitch those parts together. It gave the bear claw some dimension - isn't it lovely when a solution to a mistake gives you a bonus effect? Last, but not least, I crocheted a join between each quarter square, and then between halves, and then around the edges. I partially felted the result to make it softer and to shrink it slightly, and low and behold, it ended up the perfect size to stitch to a commercial 18" x 18" pillow (brown chenille.)

I just got word today that the package had arrived, and she really likes it. :-D I am so happy about that! And.... she's going to take it to Cloud 9, which is perfect.

Happy Birthday, Debbie!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What I Love About My Kindle 2

I haven't had my Kindle 2 for long, but I am already totally in love with it. I have an ancient PDA I used to read books on, and that was kinda cool, but there were lots of awkward things about eBooks back then. This gizmo solves the biggest problems.
  1. It used to be quite a maze to navigate to find and then download the books you wanted on the pda, and it seemed every book had a different mechanism and copy protection technique. With this, getting books on to the Kindle couldn't be any easier! It's got a wifi connection called WhisperNet. You can search through the Kindle store from the device itself, and when you select a book to purchase, it downloads and is ready for reading almost immediately. You can also purchase books from the Amazon web site on your computer, and next time you turn on the Kindle - voila, the book will automatically download and appear.
  2. The eInk technology is very easy on your eyes - page changes are quick. In almost no time, you aren't even aware that you are reading on a gizmo rather than from a regular book.
  3. Placement of the next and prev page buttons makes them very easy to use.
  4. One of my favorite features is the ability to change the size of the text of the book you are reading. This means that if it's late or I'm tired, I can magically turn my book into a large print edition. If not, I can make the text smaller and see more on the screen at a time. (I suspect that aging eyesight is cruelest for speed readers - whose reading speed depends on scanning techniques that benefit from a LOT of text in one glance.)
  5. The thing I love the most is the search ability. One of my volunteer tasks is finding inspirational readings for a Unity Church each week, and I often search texts from most of the major religions, including the words of Jesus, A Course in Miracles, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, The Tao te Ching of Lao Tzu, The Dhammapada of Buddha ..... With all of these on my kindle, I can simply search for terms related to the topic at hand, get a list of all of the hits in the items on my kindle, and then navigating to the hits is super simple.
  6. It is cool to be able to highlight a passage and make notes on a page, all without defacing a book (something I still struggle with.) Best of all, if I come across a word I'm not familiar with, I can instantly look it up in the dictionary included. How cool is that?!
Not everything is perfect, of course. One of the first thing that some of us have wondered about is backlighting - if you're in a low light situation, wouldn't it be nice to turn on a screen backlight for better contrast? Well, unfortunately, with that wonderful eInk technology, that's not possible. If you want to read in bed with the lights off, you're going to need a regular book light.

It's nice having the little keyboard on there for taking notes, though I have trouble seeing the gray letters on the tiny keys. It's a standard querty keyboard though, so once your thumbs and noggin get used to it, it's pretty simple to use.

If I could make any changes, they would be:
  1. Include a protective cover.
  2. Put a non-slip backing on it so make it easier to hold.
  3. Maybe include some sort of leash - that clips into the side slots and has a handle that goes around your wrist. (Then you don't have to worry about dozing off and dropping the sucker. If you don't buy the extended warranty plan, it can cost big bucks to replace a broken screen. This is well made, but definitely couldn't be called rugged.)
  4. Most of all, there is no way to pass on your books to anyone else. These are priced pretty well - most commercial new books are ~ $10. And Amazon keeps an archive of all the books you purchase, so you can delete them from the Kindle, and redownload them from the archive at no charge. However, what I'd like to be able to do is to delete a book I've read from my Kindle, then transfer the ownership of that book to someone else's Kindle. Amazon could charge a small fee for the transfer, and everyone would benefit.
  5. There are no folders - all of your books go in one big list. You can sort the list alphabetically by title, author, or by most recently downloaded, but still, I'd like to be able to put my books in folders.
  6. It's all black and white, which is fine for reading fiction, but there are lots of books with pictures and diagrams where color really enhances the information.
  7. After seeing my son's iPhone, it would be cool to have a touch screen interface rather than the little square navigation button. I also found it easier to use graffiti on the PDA to make notes, rather than using the keyboard on the Kindle, but maybe that's just because I haven't used it much yet.
I don't travel often, but I'm looking forward to the next trip - when I can load up the kindle with a bunch of books, with no added weight to my carry-on. Very cool!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Various and Sundry

First of all, many thanks to my new blogging buddy, Lynnette for this:

How cool is that - especially with me being pretty new to this blogging stuff and all.

Accepting this award means following some rules:
1. Copy the Kreativ Blogger award to your blog
2. Put a link to the person from whom you received the award
3. Nominate 8 other blogs and
4. Link to them
5. Then leave a message on the blogs you have nominated

And here's the tricky part - who to pass it on to. There are several blogs that I read religiously, and several that I read regularly. And before I tag them, I suppose I should check to make sure they haven't already received this one. (Mathematically speaking, it might be possible to tag all of the weaving blogs out there in just a few passes.)

These are my first three choices...
Sara at Woven Thoughts
Alice at Weaverly
Sue at Life Looms Large

Second, I've been working on a knitting project, that finally got finished and sent out today to the intended recipient. When she's gotten it, I'll post it here to share my latest meander.

Last, but not least, tomorrow I'll do a post on all the things I love about my Kindle 2.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hummingbird Movie

My recent job interviews were with a company that makes educational software. One of their products is a very cool program called Frames, that lets you create your own movies. I didn't get the job, but since I have a few days left on the eval version of the program, I thought I'd create a movie with the hummingbird pictures.



video

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gone


This is a picture from yesterday - first baby's excursion, and resting on the edge of a window.

When I came downstairs this morning, I checked the nest. The second baby was still there. I talked to it for a minute, then came inside to make coffee. When Eldy came downstairs later, he checked - baby was gone! I walked outside, enjoyed watching her crazy flights from the liquidamber tree in the front yard. Here's the empty nest.


They made it, and I'm so happy about that. Now we'll trim the dead twigs and leaves out of the tree and check the watering system, but we'll leave the nest in place - looking forward to next time.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

And Then They Flew!!!

Well, at least one of them just flew from the nest!!! Here are the two of them, pre-flight, they obviously don't fit in the nest anymore, and had their wings out.


My son Matt was taking pictures, when one of them humbuzzed right by!

He landed in a branch, and sat there for a long time. He was bobbing and flexing, as if to say "Whoa, Dude!!!" (This is southern California, after all.)
It was hysterical to sit and watch him. He sat for a long while, then his mom called to him, and he took off for a brief, rather frantic and spastic flight, before returning to the branch.

Meanwhile, back in the nest, his sister sat enjoying the warm sun, wondering where that cool breeze had come from.This is SO exciting, though of course, bittersweet, too. Not sure if they are going to take off for good now. We'll know when it's history, as my husband often says.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Incremental Progress

First.... here's the braid I made yesterday from my thrums. I like it, though I probably should learn how to use the white balance on my little camera. I still need to secure the ends before I stitch it onto the kindle bag, and also figure out exactly where I want to attach it.


Speaking of progress - look how HUGE the babies are. We expect them to fly away any day now, but it's still so thrilling to open the front door and see them there.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Project Mileage

Years ago, I was in charge of setting up the guild loom in our booth at the San Diego County Fair. It was so long ago that at that time, it was still called The Del Mar Fair. I was enamored of fibonacci stripes at the time, and using them to blend from one color to another, so I warped up the loom with some 10/2 mercerized cotton - blending from blue to green. Here's a shot of the fabric.
Now, these threads did not start out as blue and green. Being thrifty, I went through the guild cabinets and found some cones of 10/2 - in bubblegum pink and bright lime green. I'm not particularly fond of either color, so I overdyed both of them with blue, and voila - ended up with some nice oceanic colors that I think blend very well. There's a little variation in the dyeing, and I actually liked that effect, too.

After the fair was over, I wove off the rest of the warp, doing hemstitching on either end, plus some weft stripes of twill for accent. This was sett at 24 epi - a good sett for plain weave, but what I ended up with is something rather stiff for a scarf. It's never been worn - just sat in a box with all of the other marinating fabrics.

Recently, though, I mistakenly purchased a Kindle 2. Well, I did mean to purchase it, but I pre-ordered it, thinking they would come out in the summertime, thinking I would be gainfully employed by that time. Instead, they came out in February, and I didn't get the job I was interviewing for. However, I LOVE the Kindle. I decided to make a slipcover for it, and hmmmm, looking through the box of fabrics, this popped out. After relearning how to use my sewing machine, this is what I came up with.

Then I decided it would be cool to make a kumihimo handle to attach. Hmmmm..... do I still have the thrums? I looked in the thrum box, and YES, I do!

I carefully pulled off 8 threads for each of the 8 tama - 4 tama with green and 4 with blue. I'll post again when the handle is braided.So this is definitely a project I'm getting a lot of mileage out of. Your mileage may vary...

Monday, March 9, 2009

So BIG!

Look how big the baby hummingbirds are!!!! You can see their feathers developing, and now their beaks always show. I suspect they will be fledging very very soon. A good friend said to keep watching - at some point the mama bird will likely sit a ways away and call to them. I'm looking forward to seeing them learning to fly, even if it means they'll be going away.

Another friend suggested leaving the nest in place - saying sometimes they will return next year to the same nest, if it is still there.



Friday, March 6, 2009

Babies Overflowing


The babies now fill the nest to overflowing. And here's a peek at them from the side of the nest without the mirror - so you can see their little heads and beaks popping up over the top.


Anybody remember the chubby puppy in 101 Dalmations. "I'm hungry, Mother, I'm hungry!"

Gratitude Poem

I'm not normally a poet, but last night, at the last session of my class with Jan Phillips, she read us a poem called Gratitude, by Mary Oliver. Then we were to answer the questions in the poem ourselves. She said you should share what you write, so.... here's my poem.

Gratitude
(after Mary Oliver)
by Deanna Johnson

What did you notice?
The grace of cool fresh air after the dry despair of Santa Anas.

What did you hear?
A white hum, not noise, of thousands of cars with some place urgent to go,
sounding like the pound of waves on sand.

What did you admire?
The painted houses, colors blending from one to another,
courageously hiding the stark faces of garage doors.

What astonished you?
The simplicity, the amazing analogy of spectrums of color and sound.

What would you like to see again?
The face of my sister, with echoes of family gestures and laughter and care.

What was most tender?
Touching baby hummingbirds, still warm,
not abandoned after all, a sweet relief.

What was most wonderful?
The beating of the weft, flashes of color, coalescing into fabric,
felt in bones and heart.

What did you think was happening?
I opened each love letter of life, comforted.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Growing Babies

After the delight of finding the baby hummingbirds, our whole family became quite protective of them. We had a bit of drama on Friday, though.

A neighbor came to borrow something, and while we stood talking with the door opened, the hummingbird got in the house. She kept zooming around the high ceilings, trying to find her way back out. We tried our best to help her - noticing she kept flying toward areas of reflected light, we turned out most of the lights in the house except those in the foyer by the front door. No luck. Then she headed upstairs. We closed all of the doors off the hallway up there, but still couldn't get her to head back toward the door. Finally, I held up a goalie lacrosse net. She sat on it, and as hummers usually do when they think they are caught, she played dead. I took the net downstairs and outside, set in on the ledge near the front door, and off she went.

All's well and good, right? Well, it got pretty cold that night, and every time I looked out there, no mom on the nest. I was really worried about those babies, almost to the point of despair. (It seems silly in retrospect.) I went to an all-day HeartMath class on Saturday, and while I was gone, my son Matthew called Hummingbird Rescue to ask for their advice. They actually told him to touch the babies to be sure they were alive and warm (they were.) I never knew you could touch them - some species of birds will abandon babies that have been touched my humans, but apparently not hummingbirds. They said as the babies get bigger, the mom is gone more and more away from the nest, getting food. We were worried that she might have freaked out about her indoor excursion and abandoned the nest, but nope, she didn't. My husband Eldy bought another hummingbird feeder to hang by the front of the house. Our regular one is in the backyard.

Here's evidence that the babies are growing. The two of them about fill the nest now!